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Improved residential experience for FISC students starting in fall 2020

Starting in fall 2020, students in the UW–Madison Farm and Industry Short Course program will enjoy a significantly upgraded residential experience. Through a new partnership between the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) and UW Conference Centers, students will reside in campus’ Lowell Center, a professional education hospitality facility, during their Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) terms.

Lowell Center’s Langdon Street entrance, in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. Photo by Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS.

Lowell Center is located near the heart of campus, close to Memorial Union, Library Mall, State Street and the new Nicholas Recreation Center. Rooms will be equipped with professional furnishings and modern amenities such as flat screen TVs with cable and free Wi-Fi, and students will be able to use Lowell’s pool, sauna, fitness equipment and housekeeping services.

The current Short Course dorms — Humphrey Hall and Jorns Hall — are over 65 years old and are in need of many repairs and renovations.

“It’s going to be a major upgrade,” says Jennifer Blazek, director of the Short Course program.  “We are excited that our students will be able to enjoy the many benefits of living at Lowell, while continuing to have ample opportunities to build the connections and sense of community that is such an important part of the FISC experience.”

Lowell Center double room in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. Photo by Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS.

At Lowell, students will be housed on designated Short Course floors, and they will have access to dedicated community lounge and computer lab areas. FISC staff will have on-site offices, so they will remain close to students throughout the academic year. FISC House Fellows—UW undergraduate or graduate students—will also reside on the Short Course floors to provide mentorship, community engagement, and safety and security for the community, as they have been in the former halls.

“The college remains strongly committed to growing the FISC program,” says Kate VandenBosch, CALS dean. “The residential component of this program is something that sets it apart from many professional agricultural education programs, so we want to make it the best experience possible for our students.”

The FISC program, first offered in 1886, was designed to meet the training needs of beginning farmers of the day, with a schedule that accommodated the growing season, rather than traditional semesters. FISC has provided training to thousands of farmers, industry and business professionals over the past 130-plus years.

Community lounge and instructional area, Lowell Center in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. Photo by Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS.

At Lowell, FISC students will have two housing packages to choose from, so they can select the one that best meets their goals and schedule. There will be a continuous plan (7 nights per week) as well as a new weekday plan (5 nights per week), where students stay at Lowell from Sunday evening through Friday morning and vacate their room each weekend allowing them to resume their on-farm work over the weekends without extra housing costs.

Both housing packages include a built-in meal plan. Lowell’s on-site dining service will feature a daily hot buffet-style breakfast (for each night stayed) and dinner Monday through Thursday.

For FISC students housed in doubles, the continuous plan will cost $5,555 and include more than 175 hot meals. The weekday plan will cost $4,073 and include more than 145 hot meals.

“We are proud to partner with this historic program,” says Bill Mann, executive director of UW Conference Centers. “For decades, we have been providing the ‘roof over the Wisconsin Idea’ for many groups involved in continuing education and extension-type activities, and we are looking forward to hosting FISC.”

Each year, FISC awards more than $200,000 in scholarships to students. Every student who applies for financial assistance receives a scholarship. The average scholarship award is $3,000 per student. CALS will increase funding for need-based scholarships starting in fall 2020.

The move to Lowell doesn’t impact tuition. FISC students will continue to pay at UW–Madison’s per-credit tuition rate.

The Short Course halls will become undergraduate residences managed by UW Housing, which plans to update both buildings. Both halls will retain their names under UW Housing management.

“I’m very pleased about the move to Lowell Center,” says FISC alumnus Charles Crave, founding partner in Crave Brothers Farm and Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese. “It’s a beautiful, central location, and the many times I’ve interacted with Lowell staff [for the annual National 4-H Dairy Conference] they have been very welcoming. For FISC students from any part of the state, country or world, I’m certain this will be a welcome place to call home.”